Zimbabwe extends lockdown as it probes Covid-19 variants

Tuesday February 16 2021
Zimbabwe lockdown.

Largely deserted city of Harare on January 5, 2021. Zimbabwe government imposed a 30-day lockdown to curb the spread of a second wave of Covid-19. PHOTO | AFP


Zimbabwe has extended its tough lockdown by two weeks to slow down Covid-19 infections amid fears that the new variants are circulating in the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the extension “would enable health personnel to investigate and monitor the presence and circulation of new variants.”

Zimbabwe was forced to re-introduce a tough lockdown early last month following a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths.

The resurgence of the pandemic was blamed on the influx of returning residents from South Africa and the United Kingdom during the festive season.

Both South Africa and the UK reported new and more infectious coronavirus variants among their populations late last year.

Rwanda's national airline, RwandAir, last week suspended flights to Zimbabwe and some of its neighbours citing fears of the spread of Covid-19 variants.


Zimbabwe has been recording a steady decline in Covid-19 infections and deaths in recent weeks, but President Mnangagwa cautioned that the worst is not yet over.

“While the national lockdown goals are now within sight, the number of active cases and deaths, however, are still very high,” he said in a televised address.

“These need to come down further…Every life lost is a big loss to us.

“The extension (of the lockdown) will allow the number of active cases and those still in incubation to recede.”

As of February 15, Zimbabwe had recorded 35,222 Covid-19 cases with 1,410 deaths and 30,759 recoveries.

President Mnangagwa eased some restrictions that will see government departments increasing their capacity from 10 percent to 25 percent with effect from Tuesday.

The dusk to dawn curfew was adjusted to run from 8pm to 5.30am.

Intercity travel and large gatherings, however, remain banned.

On Monday, Zimbabwe received its first batch of China's Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine.

China donated 200,000 doses of the vaccine and Harare says it bought an extra 600,000 doses that are scheduled to be delivered by early next month.

The southern African country wants to buy at least 1.8 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

It expects to start administering Covid-19 vaccine jabs to health workers and members of the security forces in the next few days.

President Mnangagwa said the country was expecting more vaccines from Russia, India and the United Kingdom.

“I am also happy that the second consignment of vaccines procured from the People's Republic of China will be received in a few weeks,” he said.

“As already indicated, vaccines from other countries, namely Russia, India and the United Kingdom are also on the way.

“That should see our pace of vaccinating drawing us nearer the goal of achieving herd immunity.” 

Zimbabwe says it expects to vaccinate 60 percent of the population or 10 million people to achieve herd immunity.